Anambra Central Senatorial Dispute: Umeh Floors Ekwunife at Supreme Court

0

By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by Senator Uche Ekwunife challenging the nullification of her election for the Anambra Central Senatorial District. 

 The Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal Division in Awka had nullified the election that produced Ekwunife as senator representing the Anambra Central Senatorial District in the March 2015 general elections. 

The tribunal and the Appeal Court had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to conduct a rerun election for the district. 

However, dissatisfied with the decisions of the lower and appellate courts, Ekwunife approached the Supreme Court to set aside the verdicts.  

But delivering judgment in the appeal on Friday Justice Amina Augie who read the lead judgment upheld the position of Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance who was Ekwenife’s challenger at the lower courts. 

The apex court, presided over by Justice Tanko Mohammed who led  a five man panel said it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal.  The court held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain matters emanating from the conduct of National Assembly elections. 

 In the lead judgement that was handed down by Justice Amina Augie, the she held that  the terminal point for all disputes over National Assembly polls was the Court of Appeal.

 Justice Augie held that the apex court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine Ekwenife’s appeal in respect of the Anambra Central Senatorial election dispute. 

 She held: “Looking closely at the wordings of Section 246 (3), it is clear that the decision of the Court of Appeal is final. This, the decision, therefore has no business climbing or driving to this court for adjudication because this court is completely bereft of jurisdiction to entertain here and determine any such appeal from the lower court. 

“Once the court below delivers its judgment on a National Assembly Election Petition Appeal, the judgment is final and this court has no jurisdiction to hear any appeals related thereto no matter how cleverly framed.” 

She further declared that Umeh’s preliminary objection to Ekwunife’s appeal succeeded, saying, “this court lacks jurisdiction. This appeal is struck out.”

 Counsel to the appellant (Ekwunife)  Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, while arguing the appeal had urged the apex court to restate Ekwunife to her seat at the Senate.  

He urged the court to hold that the decision of the Anambra Central Senatorial District amounted to a nullity because the tribunal and the Court of Appeal had dealt with issues of nomination and sponsorship which they had no jurisdiction to determine. 

Ekwunife position’s was vehemently challenged by Chief Patrick Ikwueto, SAN who represented Chief Victor Umeh and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), contestant for the Senate. 

Ikwueto had urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction; saying the appeal was an abuse of court process.  

He said, Section 246 (3) of the  Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) made the Court of Appeal the final court on matters relating to National Assembly elections.

Ikwuato argued that Ekwunife was no longer a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) having decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC), where she contested the party primary and lost.

 The counsel also submitted that PDP had obtained judgment of a Federal High Court where Ekwunife had denounced her membership of PDP.

 

Ikwueto maintained that the court of appeal decision which upheld the tribunal judgment was based on the fact that Ekwunife was not qualified